Who Actually Needs a Smart Dishwasher?

WiFi-enabled dishwashers present new ways to interact with your machine, but they aren't game-changers yet

Prefer to check the status of your dishwasher cycle without bending down? There's an app for that (if you have a smart dishwasher).

By Molly Bradley

For most of us, the point of a dishwasher is to get dishes clean as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. So now that a number of brands make “smart” dishwashers—ones that come equipped with WiFi—you might wonder if connectivity really enhances a dishwasher and whether it’s worth the extra cost (typically a couple of hundred dollars).

Most household appliances don’t need to be smart. When it comes to refrigerators, for instance, some smart models enable you to see the contents of your fridge remotely, which can be helpful for impromptu stops at the grocery store. But some boast a screen that allows you to watch TV and play music in the kitchen, which may make you feel as if you’ve paid extra just to have an iPad mounted on your fridge.

So what can smart dishwashers do? Of all the variations of dishwasher models on the market, only about 6 percent have WiFi, says Nish Suvarnakar, senior market analyst for dishwashers at Consumer Reports. And their smart features aren’t as variable as that of other smart appliances. “It has less to do with the sophistication of the tech and more to do with the sophistication of the actual machine,” says Jennifer White Boehm, director of US Personal Care, Household and Health & Wellness Reports at Mintel, a market research firm. “Washers and dryers perform more difficult functions, whereas dishes are mainly dirty . . . and dirtier.”

While most dishwashers offer a similar set of smart functions, such as the ability to monitor a dishwasher’s current cycle on a phone, there are some key differences. For instance, not all smart dishwashers allow you to start a cycle remotely. While our lab testers don’t assign a specific rating to dishwasher smart features, we do assess their capabilities to see what different models can do.

What a Smart Dishwasher Can and Can’t Do

The smart dishwashers CR has reviewed all cost more than about $900. In comparison, the entry-level price of a regular dishwasher is less than $500. Here’s what that extra cost might enable you to do, depending on the model.

You can monitor your dishwasher remotely. The main function of WiFi connectivity in a dishwasher is to let you monitor it from your smartphone, smartwatch, or tablet. It can show you what cycle you’ve selected (normal, heavy, quick wash, or others) and the time remaining, and send push notifications to let you know when a cycle is done. It’s a handy way to check in on your dishes, and you may prefer using your phone’s interface rather than stooping down over your dishwasher, especially if you don’t want to keep going back to the kitchen.

You might be able to operate it remotely, too. For instance, some machines let you start a cycle from your phone, whether you’re in another room of the house or at work across town. This might be helpful if you like to prep the detergent in the morning and load dishes over the course of the day so that all you need to do by nighttime is press “start” from the comfort of your bed. One thing to remember is that some smart dishwashers may require you to go into the app’s settings to run it when you’re not connected to your home WiFi network.

You can customize your dishwasher’s interior lighting. Some brands let you choose a color to illuminate the inside of your dishwasher when you open it. This is more an aesthetic perk than a functional upgrade, but as Thermador puts it, you can customize the lighting for “any entertaining occasion.” So feel free to dazzle dinner guests with a glimpse of your dishwasher’s interior.

You can choose from recommended cycles and more nuanced cycle options. Dishwashers using Home Connect—a smart home app that lets you control your dishwasher and other smart appliances from the same place on your phone—have an “Easy Start” option that can recommend a cycle to run based on information about the dishes you’ve loaded. You answer just two questions, one about the type of dishes (glasses and sensitive utensils, pots and pans, or a mixed load) and the other about cleaning preferences (time-efficient, energy-efficient, or other factors), and it recommends a cycle. But you can also fine-tune a wash based on the functions you want it to perform, like sanitizing the dishes or increasing the water pressure and temperature. Other smart dishwasher apps, like LG’s ThinQ, allow you to download new cycles designed for specific dish types. There are cycles for pots and pans, glassware, and casserole dishes, and a cycle “optimized to clean dishes overnight.” That said, nonsmart dishwashers come with similar cycles preloaded.

You can keep track of your detergent supply. Many smart dishwasher apps can let you know when you’re running low. You enter the number of tablets or boxes of tablets you have and decide how many tablets you want remaining when the app notifies you to buy more. You can also connect your dishwasher to your broader smart home system, via Alexa or Google Home, so you can have detergent automatically added to your online shopping cart when the app determines it’s time for a refill.

You can be notified when something goes wrong. With remote diagnostics, a smart dishwasher can let you know if there’s a leak or another mechanical problem. When CR’s senior test project leader for dishwashers, Larry Ciufo, spilled water beneath one of the dishwashers he was evaluating to simulate a leak, someone in customer support called him to check in. (Most brands will send you a notification via the smart dishwasher app on your phone.) “It surprised the daylights out of me,” Ciufo says. He also adds that he was a little taken aback when the machine didn’t shut off automatically upon detecting a leak; it just notified him. In case of a real leak or another problem, using the app’s troubleshooting manual or calling customer support can help you resolve it.

Who Should Buy a Smart Dishwasher?

As enticing as some of these WiFi-enabled capabilities sound, most people could probably hold off on buying a smart dishwasher. “It isn’t really who ‘should’ ” buy one, Boehm says, “but who wants to.” The smart dishwashers available today don’t offer functions that are particularly essential, nor do they address the pain points most people have with their dishwashers, such as their inability at large to fully dry a load of dishes. If you rely only on a couple of cycles depending on how many dishes are dirty or how dirty they are, these expanded options are unlikely to have an impact on your quality of life—or how clean your dishes get.

But if you have a flexible budget and you don’t mind a smart home app sharing data about your dishwasher habits with the manufacturer, a smart dishwasher is something to consider. “The price point for these dishwashers is higher,” Boehm said, “so if you’re looking for a specific look, you have the funds, and you’re particularly enamored with the technology, these appliances would appeal to you.” If you’re enthusiastic about smart-home tech or already own other smart appliances, a smart dishwasher would fit right into your digital household. That said, different brands may use different apps to operate their appliances. Consider coordinating your smart appliances so they’re operable from the same app.

A smart dishwasher may also be right for you if you’re particular about how you like your dishes done or if you want to be extra careful with fine china or glassware. A smart dishwasher’s ability to control the details of each cycle may be helpful. The remote start feature might also come in handy if you often find yourself leaving the house—or the kitchen, for that matter—forgetting to start the dishwasher.

Looking forward, Boehm says we can expect smart appliance developments geared toward energy management. Brands “are stepping into energy consumption and helping families manage their overall utility bills,” she says. For now, dishwashers may have WiFi, but they’re not game-changers—at least not yet. “Smart appliances are the future,” Suvarnakar says, “but probably the middle-distance future—say, five to 10 years—not the immediate.”

Best Smart Dishwashers

The smart dishwashers CR has assessed don’t have the highest Overall Scores compared to other models in our dishwasher ratings, but a handful of them wash and dry well and have especially strong scores for energy efficiency and noise. Here are the three top-rated dishwashers that come with WiFi.

Café CDT845P2NS1

CR’s take: This Café model’s washing performance and energy efficiency are both excellent, and it earned the highest possible score for noise, so it’s about as quiet as a dishwasher can be. It doesn’t dry dishes quite as well as other models, but features like adjustable tines, a third rack, and WiFi connectivity might make up for that. Smart Café appliances use the SmartHQ app, which not only lets you monitor cycles and track detergent but can also be integrated with other smart home devices to give you voice-activated control of your dishwasher. Café offers a very similar model (the CDT805P2NS1) that’s a little less expensive, but it lacks some of the wash features like a spray jet system and specific silverware jets that make the CDT845P2NS1 so effective at cleaning dishes.

LG Signature LUDP8908SN

CR’s take: This LG dishwasher is a well rounded, capable machine. It washes well, has excellent energy efficiency, and dries better than your average dishwasher—better than the Café model above, though it’s noisier. It has an adjustable upper rack, adjustable tines, and a third rack, and you’ll operate its smart features using LG’s proprietary smart home app called ThinQ, which allows you to schedule the time you want a cycle to start and adjust the cycle to include things like steam or an extra rinse.

Samsung DW80B7070US

CR’s take: The Samsung DW80B7070US has a lower rating than the dishwashers above, and it’s not the highest-rated smart dishwasher from Samsung, but it’s one of the cheapest smart dishwashers in our ratings. It washes and dries dishes exceptionally well, and it’s as quiet as the LG, though slower, with a cycle time of 165 minutes. For about $100 more, the Samsung DW80R9950US is quieter and a little more energy-efficient, and its cycle is shorter, but it doesn’t wash quite as well as this model. The downside to Samsung dishwashers is that while the brands on this list score less than ideally for dishwasher reliability, Samsung scores the lowest. Samsung smart dishwashers and other WiFi-enabled appliances from Samsung use the smart home app SmartThings.

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